Mayor to help set course for tech innovations in London

Plans to help identify which emerging tech innovations are right for the capital have been unveiled by the Mayor, Sadiq Khan.

The Mayor believes it is vital for cities to understand how to develop and adopt emerging technologies to maximise their benefits, while also minimising any negative impacts on life and work. Sadiq has tasked his Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, and the Smart London Board with developing an Emerging Technologies Charter – which will set out the criteria which innovations should meet before they are deployed in the capital.

As London adopts more and more ‘smart city’ technology solutions, the city requires a framework for setting expectations around design, security, privacy and ways of working so that innovators can pitch, develop and deploy the right solutions in the capital. The Charter will structure and inform public discussion in this area.

Areas the Charter is expected to cover include:

  • Ways of working – It aims to ensure that trialling new technologies is conducted openly and responsibly, actively engaging with the public, authorities and other relevant bodies.
  • Data – recommendations will be made on the collection, use, and sharing of data collected by emerging technologies via city data platforms such as at TfL or City Hall’s London Datastore, so it can be used for shared purposes such as climate change adaptation or resilience planning. ​
  • Design – Promoting the best in design and ensuring all Londoners are heard when new technologies are developed and deployed, to ensure digital inclusion and accessibility at the heart of future innovations.
  • Privacy and security – Promoting privacy-by-design to ensure emerging technologies adhere to the spirit – not just the letter – of data protection laws and meet relevant cybersecurity standards.

The Charter will build on existing guidance and experience developed through TfL’s guidelines for Connected Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) operators, anonymised Wifi data on the Tube network, the Metropolitan Police Service’s ethics panel on live facial recognition technology and the NHS’s engagement with Londoners on the sharing of health data conducted earlier this year.

The announcement comes as a report by leading consultancy Digital Catapult identified a number of emerging technologies in which London will lead the world in positively impacting residents and businesses, including artificial intelligence, 5G connectivity and robotics.

The report also sets out recommendations on the ethical, sustainable, economic and social policies which should be used when adopting digital technologies, ensuring London’s unique strengths help sustain its position as a global leader in the future.

The proposed Charter follows work undertaken by other major cities, notably San Francisco’s Emerging Technology Board, Boston’s Smart Cities Playbook and Helsinki’s MyData initiatives.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “New technologies being developed by London’s world-leading tech sector have the potential to make a positive impact for all who live, work and study in the capital – and I want London to be a test-bed for innovation.

“But even the most dynamic cities need a framework to steer the emergence of new tools and applications which affect our open spaces, transport systems and public services.

“The response to the Covid-19 pandemic is also putting the spotlight on how we use data – from new public health tracing apps and sensor technology to the use of artificial intelligence and the roll-out of 5G connectivity.

“So it’s vital Londoners and public bodies understand the full impact of any new technology launched in the capital – and that innovations are designed with the public’s needs firmly in mind. My Emerging Technology Charter aims to do just that.”

Director for Policy & Strategy at Digital Catapult, Jessica Rushworth, said: “The combination of advanced digital technologies such as AI, 5G, extended reality, the internet of things and distributed ledger, will create opportunities and challenges at scale for businesses, policymakers and individuals over the next ten to 15 years and beyond.

“With the launch of our new report, Digital Catapult welcomes the development of an emerging technology charter for London, enhancing its position as a responsible global innovation leader.

“We look forward to working with the Mayor and his team on this important initiative, to bring benefits for the capital and the UK as a whole.”

Stream Lead at the National Digital Twin Programme and member of the Smart London Board, Miranda Sharp, said: “I’m delighted to be involved with this ground-breaking initiative, which will allow London’s dynamic tech sector to reduce the risk and uncertainty in developing new technologies – as well as help policy makers to make confident, evidence-based decisions on the introduction of new services to benefit all Londoners.”

A sub-group of the Smart London Board will develop the Charter and explore the possibility of launching a London Emerging Technology Board, which would consist of a range of experts from across London’s world-leading tech sector who will inform City Hall’s work in tech and data.

In July, London was once again named the world’s smartest city in the IESE Cities in Motion Index, a major piece of research carried out each year by the business school at the University of Navarra in Spain.

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